Christmas is fast approaching as I write this. The thirty-fifth deployment of the Perimeter’s little tree is complete, and it again stands guard over both artfully and man-wrapped gifts. Its accompanying stuffed Christmas Moose and Penguin are intermittently on station when not being abducted and abused by Kitteh Leo, who is also responsible for one of the Editress’s ceramic ornaments not being quite what it was last year.
Music by Elvis, Mannheim Steamroller and others pervades the ambiance. Die Hard has been viewed already, featuring the annual Dropping of the Hans and remembrance of those lost in 1988 at the Nakatomi Tower. The Season is here.
There are many answers one might garner when asking others what Christmas is. Some will be hostile and defensive, projecting a spittled tirade shot through with the false premises guiding those who revile this time of year. As with every good thing, there are those who just don’t understand.
It’s a federal holiday, a long weekend, and a time for family. It’s the medieval institutionalization of the pagan observance of the Winter Solstice rebranded in a new paradigm by the early Church as Christianity gained dominance via western civilization’s governing hierarchy. Yes, Christmas is all those things. But it’s more.
Christmas is rooted in the historical appearance of the Christ Child. The birth of Jesus is celebrated at the end of December out of tradition, though Scripture hints of His arriving during the Feast of Tabernacles occurring in the fall instead. History is what it is, and all of its distracting errata cannot overshadow the fact that He arrived, just as it cannot hide the truth that He Was, and Is, and Is To Come. Without Jesus, it and we are emptied of what matters most.
That foundational premise comprises a hard stop for unbelieving souls: the Holiday Season crowd, happy to partake in days off and satisfied to celebrate materialism, themselves, or whatever else in the human experience they feel should occupy our attention instead. The Christmas Spirit is a Christian Spirit, being an outgrowth of the essential orientation of faith, as are many other attributes of life being lived as it should. We proceed, faith says, in a binary system of ones and zeroes, with every aspect of our existence being within or in opposition to the Will of God.
My writing started with my character Jon Anthony, in whose theology he espoused a “reduction to essence” which, as such luminaries as Lao Tzu and Winnie the Pooh agreed, begins at the beginning. Our essential orientation defines us, being a set of unavoidable and existential questions we answer in our actions if not contemplation. In those, we have two patron spirits vying for our affiliation; their hallmarks are vitality or decay, nurture or predation, connection or isolation, love and hate, and many other opposites. Every choice made is dominated by a spirit of light or darkness, with valid faith being the determinate factor of each turn toward fulfillment or folly. It’s not much of a mystery which patron benefits us most: it’s the one Who wishes us at each juncture to live rather than die.
History is a resource presenting us the opportunity to grow via the life lessons of others rather than relying on our own limited experience, and as such attending or ignoring the opportunity is another of the binary choices we all must make. And the history of the Christian experience, an appearance which was delayed into historical times, is one on which we can rely.
We can reference, through Roman historians long passed into eternity, confirmation of the Census of Quinirius in the years of Augustus that prompted the travel of Joseph’s new family to Bethlehem. Likewise, the later ministry of the Christ Child grown into manhood would be documented by Josephus in his tome The Jewish Wars. Christmas Is because Jesus Is, and we who have looked into the subject have rational assurance of all these events rather than needing to take any of them on blind faith, as the faithless accuse. But to see these things one must look, while the distraction from that search is the goal of every effort of the enemy. Every experience derives from the victory of one or another of the two competing spirits who vie for us all; spiritually, politically, and personally.
Observance is telling once one understands. The Spirit bestows the gift of what the Greeks called Diakrisis, the discernment of spirits. It can be a burden to see people from the inside out. There you’ll find inflamed, self-inflicted wounds, the fever of guilt, and addiction to premises that poison the mind before they infect the soul. But the joy of recognizing love’s driving force is there to discover as well, and the hope of healing one to the other is what keeps our walk of faith vital and relevant.
To live as we’re meant, we need to understand all we can, and there’s no better time of year to begin. Christmas presents, you see, cannot compete with Christmas Presence. Understood in its fullness, the season never has to end. There is strength there to be had through simple recognition of The Way Things Are, blinding as its initial insight might be.
Your inner eye will adjust. Trust me … and then trust Him with everything.
Merry Christmas. Choose to love. -DA
In production news, the Editress is somewhere in the vicinity of forty percent through production editing of Boone’s concluding novel, Two Years with Master Quan. Our favorite redhead’s first and last adventure, set during her postdoctoral studies in Vietnam and featuring Thibaut, Quan, and others, will appear next year as God is willing. If you’ve not yet been, her previous six novels are a trip worth the time.